GENERAL REVIEW: Batman #15
“You know what he is. Tell yourself the truth. He’s just a man who fell in a vat of chemical waste. He’s just a man...”
WARNING: this review contains potential SPOILERS!
One of the New 52’s most acclaimed series continues in Batman #15.
I’d been losing interest in Batman in the past few years. Sure, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy has done wonderful things for the character, but I felt as if Bats had sort of been treading water. There hadn’t been a Batman story in a while that engaged or surprised me.
But along comes Scott Snyder, a relatively unknown writer with big plans for the Caped Crusader. There’s no way around it, Snyder is one of the most creative contributors to the Batman mythos in recent years. His Court of Owls storyline took yet another trip into Bruce Wayne’s tormented past, but managed to introduce shocking new elements in the process.
And now we’re deep in the meat of the “Death of the Family” story arc, Snyder’s ode to the dichotomy between Batman and the Joker. And yes, Batman continues to be better than ever.
I’m aware that Greg Capullo’s art is a bit polarizing to some comic fans. Personally, I absolutely love his style. Capullo brings vivid detail to the characters of the Bat-Family, lending imagery straight out of horror movies such as Se7en and Saw. It’s beautiful, terrifying, disturbing, and completely fitting for the Batman universe.
One detail that some readers may not enjoy is the level of graphic violence present. It doesn’t necessarily bother me, but when you have skin being torn, faces being worn, and flesh-masks being squished, you might get a little uncomfortable reading this comic. A word of warning: if you’re not into gruesome images, you probably won’t be a fan of this comic.
A minor issue that I have is with the way Capullo draws Bruce Wayne. I’m aware that the New 52 reboot was intended to make characters younger, but Wayne looks like a guy in his early twenties. When Batman and Nightwing look the same age, something’s a little bit off. Still, that’s a relatively small gripe. The rest of the art is beautifully and cinematically presented, steeped in cold, blue-gray hues that give the issue a fantastic neo-noir atmosphere. If you ask me, Greg Capullo is at the top of his game here.
The strongest point for this entire series so far has been its writing. Scott Snyder has a fantastic ability to give each character their own independent voice in the story, so much so that I can’t help but picture Batman and Joker speaking in Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill’s voices. Subtle touches such as Jason Todd’s bitter sarcasm brings a level of depth to the story that’s hard to come by in comics.
This issue in particular focuses on two things: Batman’s fear of the Joker and the Bat-Family’s reaction to his recent attacks. In light of Joker’s dubious declaration that he knows the Family members’ identities, dissent and distrust begins to grow among them. Snyder continues to be coy with the idea that Joker may or may not actually know who Bruce Wayne is, giving the entire story arc a sense of gnawing dread.
Also touched upon this issue is the apparent supernatural ability with which Joker commits his crimes. Batman continues to tell himself that Joker is “just a man.” He has to eat, he has to sleep. He’s made of flesh and bone. But at the same time, he’s an elemental force of chaos and destruction. If one thing is clear, it’s that Scott Snyder completely understands the relationship between Batman and his nemesis.
I do have one problem with the story thus far, although it’s only a personal issue. In all my time reading Batman, I’ve always preferred the Joker to be mysterious. Even after reading Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke,” I held onto Joker’s statement that his own past is unclear. Scott Snyder seems to have accepted Joker’s background from “The Killing Joke” as fact, and while I like the fact that the villain is retracing his history with Batman, it almost cheapens the character to know that he’s only a man after all. Knowing who Joker really is makes him less threatening, and not nearly as scary.
The proverbial magic is gone. It’s kind of like finding out that Santa Clause isn’t real after all.
But again, that’s a personal gripe. On the whole, Batman #15 is brilliant work, and a perfect example of why you should be reading this series.
Until next time.
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